The Power of our Kindness

Kindness is a powerful word full of good intentions.  Everyone believes kindness to be an asset, but like anything worth having, it takes work.  Components of kindness are love, compassion, understanding, and thoughtfulness.  We can all be nice, but ‘nice’ is akin to lifting a one-pound weight expecting to build muscle in a week.  Being nice is nice but being kind is how we collectively become strong enough to change our world.

When my granddaughter was entering her pre-teen years, she witnessed bullying in school.  She explained how some of her friends made fun of others and did so as a group.  I recall telling her, “Honey, don’t fall into the trap of following unkind behavior no matter how popular it may be.  Bullying is the antithesis of kindness.  How do you want your friends to remember you?  Were you the one who knocked another down, or were you the one who helped someone stand?”

She answered as only the young can, “Oh Grandma, I feel horrible when people get hurt.”   That night, I recall lying in bed thanking God that my granddaughter understood compassion.

Turning a blind eye

 How can any of us be loving if we avoid feeling the pain of others?  How often have we closed our eyes to suffering because it hurts to look?  We are kind to ourselves, but we are inconsiderate when we bypass viewing the agony of others.

It is heartbreaking to watch the world suffering today and see the monstrous acts of leaders who create hell on earth.  It is dreadful to hear words of hatred and vile tempers running amok, creating friction and division.   How do we douse the fire, thwart the evil, and build better character?  How do we save our world from the bad folks?

Well, for one thing, we sure cannot do it alone, and we can’t turn away or ignore the raging inferno in front of us.  Because a fire out of control reduces all in its path to ashes.

 Mariupol, Ukraine, was a beautiful seaport city full of trees and treasures.  A town not unlike many of our beautiful American seaside locations where people go to unwind, relax, and enjoy the culture.  Mariupol’s population of over 400,000 was living a peaceful, productive life.  That is until the bully came to town.  A tormentor with no concept of compassion or kindness.  Two months after he arrived, Mariupol is no more.  The trees are barren, the earth scorched, and families are broken.  Within two short months, 95% of all that once stood is destroyed.  An out-of-control bully, unchecked, is a fire waiting to be ignited.

Dousing the fires

Zero Dean says, “If you want kindness in the world, put some out there.”  Thoughtfulness and civility create the waters to douse the fire.  It’s not up to our leaders alone; it is up to every human to pick up a pail of empathy and throw it on the flames.  We can’t just talk about being kind folks; we must actively distribute abundant acts of kindness.

When I first began my career in interior design, a good friend advised me, “The only way to compel your business to grow is to be genuinely kind.  Kindness will earn you a better reputation than your talent and provide for you and your children.”  My career lasted over 43 years.   I was never wealthy, never the most talented designer, but I always put my clients first, and in the end, my work nourished and enriched my family.

Kindness means putting down your anger, filing away your distrust, and ending rude, crude behavior.  And often, it is not popular to do so.  We find ourselves with crowds who believe misery loves company.  Sometimes, we cowardly accept the self-righteous actions, the rudely uncivil folks, and forget our place in God’s world.  We listen to the loud and obnoxious, causing us to not hear the whispers of the Almighty. 

Sow the seeds

 Acts of kindness and thoughtfulness can spread if we sow the seeds.  Love, mercy, and understanding are what God expects of us.  When we judge others, cause harm, and are bigots, we defy God.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. 

I know what you think, “Heck, I am kind!  A lot of us are good folks!”  And, yes, you are.  However, could we all take it further and think before speaking and stopping before judging?  Could we be more courageous and not accept others’ incivility?  If we do, that kind of work will dispense enough powerful kindness to douse the raging inferno of evil, keep the bullies at bay, and save us all.

“It is not genius, nor glory, nor love that reflects the greatness of the human soul; it is kindness.” Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire.

Grandpa’s Golden Egg of Joy

She was usually in her kitchen by 4 am to prepare for her day.  Grandpa (my grandmother) deemed Sunday the most important day of the week, and it required dedication and early rising to make it perfect for all.  I recall her preparing the roast, fried chicken, and her heavenly biscuits before Sunday church services.  However, there was never a feast like her Easter Celebrations.

Grandpa and Grandaddy hosted most of my cousins, aunts, and uncles for this special day.  The food was enough to feed an army, prompting my mother to say each time, “Mama, why do you cook so much food?”  Grandpa always replied, “Well, shoot, Elizabeth, I try to prepare everyone’s favorite because my family is my favorite!  And, besides, it’s Easter, for Heaven’s sake!”

Sometimes, practicality takes a back seat to make others feel special.

After washing all those empty dishes after the feast, the famous Easter egg hunt ensued.  Each family brought at least a dyed dozen for my grandparents to methodically conceal.  The bright-colored goodies were hidden in bushes, under branches, and budding flowers throughout the yard.  The lucky finder of the well-hidden golden egg received a whole one-dollar bill from Grandaddy’s wallet!  Of course, Grandpa became a kid again when we would close in on an egg, “You’re getting hot, nope cool, no hotter!!”  

Sometimes, adults need to become as a child to experience unbridled happiness.

Easter is never over!

“Grandpa, I don’t like it when Easter and Christmas are over!” I exclaimed one day when we were about to head home after an enjoyable time. 

“Now honey, let me tell you something…. Christmas and Easter are never over.  Jesus came to us on Christmas and left us around Easter, but guess what?  He returned, and He lives right there in your heart.” With her finger still touching my chest, she continued, “Yep, those holidays are fun, but when Jesus is with you each day, that’s a pure golden joy!”

Sometimes, fun is like a dyed gold egg that eventually cracks.  However, the heart that is filled with Christ’s joy last forever.

I was watching a newscast just before Easter Sunday.  A television reporter happened upon an elderly Ukrainian woman sitting in a wheelchair outside her bomb-riddled apartment building.  The woman’s head was covered with a small scarf, and her age-worn face filled with sorrow.  In her attempt to keep warm, she wrapped herself in layers of clothes covered by a robe used as a coat.  After speaking to the trembling lady, the reporter felt compelled to help her.  It took her a few days to assemble a team to rescue the appreciative frail woman and transfer her to another town for safety.  The journalist put aside her own well-being to bring physical and mental warmth to a stranger.  

In acts of kindness, we see the spirit of the living, resurrected Lord.

I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother being alone, dirty, quivering with fear from cold, calculated, evil.  I cannot imagine my beloved Grandpa in a dire situation where her only aid would come from a passing stranger.  The thought caused me to cry and pray for all who suffer such indignity at the hands of depravity.

Who would we be?

 Who would we be without the compassion, kindness, and tenderness bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit?  Where would we be today without Christ giving His life for us to live in hope?  How could we handle death, fear, rejection, war, and strife of any kind without the love of God?  I believe we would probably be a bunch of cracked souls constantly searching for another fun adventure yet void of joy. 

Today, the colored eggs are found, and the dinner dishes are put away.  The children will eventually outgrow their new Easter outfits, and leftover jellybeans and half-eaten Peeps will find their way to the trash bins.  Yet, Easter is never over.

War continues in Ukraine, uncertainty surrounds nations, and turmoil seems a constant companion.  Even though worries abound and inhumanity continues, hope does thrive.  A risen Christ walks among us to point out the strangers who need aid, the fallen who require help to stand, and the broken who need mending.  He is the one who provides comfort in worry, strength through sorrow, and the sword to slay evil.   

Grandpa’s life was joyous because she listened to the voice of God daily.  She taught me by example to trust that Easter is unending and to believe the words of the Lord, 

 “…. And be sure of this…. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  Jesus proclaimed after Easter passed.  Matthew: 18:20

Sometimes, we need to be reminded to celebrate such certainty each day.

A Conversation with the Lord

First, Lord, thank you for coming to us, suffering for us, and teaching us the power of God.   None of us thank you enough.  Sometimes, we don’t hear you knock on our door or listen to your whispers during noisy days.  We tune you out when we want our way and yet call your name when we are desperate. 

Remember when I was little, and Dad would tell me what I should do, but I didn’t listen?  You also remember the trouble I was in afterward, right?  Since we are all your children, we create problems when we don’t follow your instructions.  And I know such behavior must tempt you to leave us a zillion times a day.  So, Father, I sure appreciate you sticking with our silly selves.  Do they have ibuprofen in Heaven?

Lord, today the world is suffering.  Your people in Ukraine are experiencing devastation akin to ancient times when ruthlessness and barbarianism were rampant.  I never thought I would witness such, but I suppose time doesn’t change evil.  I am reminded that until you return, the dark one is always lurking around a corner, no matter how ‘advanced’ we think we are.  Please, Lord, render aid to those who suffer from the brutality of evildoers.  And remind us to open our hearts to the plight of others and give all we can.

Earthly angels

Many good people do humanitarian and Godly work, but their efforts are often drowned by cynicism and shouts of violence.  I trust you will give them the strength to plow through the cruelty and listen only to your words of encouragement.  We need all the earthly angels we can gather.

Some young people want to end their life and give their souls back to you before you are ready to call them home.  Mental health solutions are desperately needed today due to the rise in suicide among teens.  If you could possibly send seeds of more understanding and kindness to us, I promise to help plant them any way I can.  Too many are leaving before they understand your purpose for them, and it must break your heart.   

As you know, we have a bunch of ‘upstanding citizens’ who, in error, believe they stand taller than you.  Do you remember when I thought I was on top of the world, and life was just grand?  If you recall, you humbled me, put me on my knees, and told me to not get up until I had changed my attitude.  Maybe I should give you a list of folks to call on.  

The need for humbling

The truth is we all often require humbling.  My big mouth and I need a daily dose of humble meds.  You would think I would know by now, but I sometimes forget my lessons, for which I am genuinely sorry. 

It is Easter time, and each year, I listen to your song, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes…!”  Yep, you triumphed alright.  Gives me goosebumps when I hear that hymn and how you showed the world just who you were the day you rose from the dark domain.   Because you defeated death, you gave each of us a song of hope, clarity, and eternal life if we just choose to believe.  

Some folks don’t acknowledge you as Lord, which is astounding.  Before there were telephones, television, internet, social media, and mass communication, you gathered 12 disciples to follow you.  You roamed from village to village preaching the word of God.  Today, 2022 years later, your name is still spoken by millions daily.  So, I ask the doubters, “How did that happen?”

Thank goodness for faith

  The innocence of children is a joy unmatched by most anything around here.  I pray they are learning that you are the gift of Easter because you will be with them all their lives.  Children see you clearly, but adulthood can blind them unless they are taught to always keep you in focus.  Please surround them with teachers bearing eye drops of faith.

Forgive us for idolizing people and things we shouldn’t.  Man-made power is mesmerizing,  but remind us that you are the shining example of authentic leadership, enormous strength, and unmatched sweetness and mercy.  And that if we can’t see you in the things and people we idolize, then help us to turn away.  

Lord, I can’t imagine what your followers thought when they saw you alive again through their tears of grief!  Then, after giving them instructions, you assured them that your spirit will remain even after you leave the earth again. 

I am not sure how it works, but your spirit does fall into our hearts if we fall to our knees.  That is the absolute miracle of you!

Hallelujah!  Christ arose….. thank goodness.

The Simple Structure on the Hill

As I approach the Easter season, my mind does not immediately envision the joyous day Christ rose, but instead the day He died.   When I think of myself below the cross, watching Him suffer as nails spear his flesh and His tears fall to the dry earth, I am filled with sorrow and dismay that human hearts could sink to such despicable levels.

Jesus used his short mortal life to teach us the ways of love, kindness, mercy, compassion, selflessness, and faith.  With the touch of his hand, he healed folks from disease, darkness, and despair.  Christ taught us that the wicked ways of judgmental thinking, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy only harm us and that forgiveness mends us.  He preached to those who would listen, and he prayed for those whose ears only heard lies and whose eyes were blinded by power.

The son of God was tortured and crucified by hardened hearts which couldn’t see who He was. 

Would Jesus die the same barbaric way if he were to come to the earth today and lead the same life?  Would we recognize him and treat him differently.

Recognizing Christ

To see Christ begins with viewing the structure on the hill.  Hopefully, there are times when many of us finally decide to fall to the feet of the cross and meet our Savior.   This iconic symbol rises to the sky above our churches. It is the primary focus in all Christian sanctuaries, and is the key to recognizing Jesus.

It is a personal journey to arrive at the cross.   For some, it is a crawl from our life’s lowest point to grab Christ’s hand so that he can pull us from our drowning sorrow.  For others, it is a long-held belief that began early, as if they were born with the knowledge that Christ was king.  But no matter how one comes to know the Savior, there are still times we all need saving. 

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t believe in God.  Yet, there are many times I stumbled and required God’s support to stand again on solid ground. 

In a bomb torn Ukrainian village this Sunday morning, folks braved the journey to their churches.  Bodies, debris, and chaos littered the earth around them.  Their lives have been on the brink of death each day for over a month.   Yet, they walk to find comfort and hope at the feet of the cross.  In desperation, they pray for peace and freedom from evil.

Faith and Compassion

Their faith in what they cannot see helps heal the horror of what they have seen.  They believe life will return no matter if death takes them away.  Does their horrendous plight deter them from their love of God?  No.  They know with certainty, without faith, that the enemy always wins.  They clearly recognize the son of God as He walks beside them on their horrific journey.

Many of us are blinded by the glitz and glamor of life.  Often, we fall short when we don’t put the teachings of Christ front and center.  I know I do.  Temptation, money, fame, power, greed, and ego are a few dangling carrots that can pull us away from our Savior.  However, when all we have is destroyed, and there is nothing left, the only thing remaining is the old cross beckoning us to return home. 

Imagine that you are attending a church service this morning in Ukraine.  You are hungry and cold, and all your earthly possessions are discarded.  You are not sure where your relatives are or if you will see them again.  How do you feel? 

Compassion is necessary for us to understand the plight of others.  Loving others is how we fight evil and come to the feet of the cross.  Christ gave His life out of love and compassion for us.  Empathy and understanding of all God’s people are precisely how we recognize Him.  

The power of the cross

“Faith” is the title of a chapter in my latest book.   When my friend and artist, Michaele, asked me what scene I envisioned to illustrate the chapter, I replied, “Oh, this one is easy!’  “Draw a massive simple cross on a hill and place me below, alone, with my arms reaching up to its power.”   I have the art framed on my desk today, and it is the entire story of my life.

How often have I felt isolated on the barren ground only to find that the cross was still powerfully there to pull me to my feet?  Too many to count.

Would I recognize Christ today?  You bet!  I know Jesus didn’t remain on the cross; He lived on to be with me daily and be with all who turn to view the simple structure on the hill.